By Paul Gable
So far we have had two orders from the S.C. Supreme Court, a recertification of eligibility of candidates by the S.C. Republican and Democratic parties and an ongoing challenge in federal court with respect to the upcoming June 12th primary elections. Yet, there are still difficulties with the candidates currently certified to appear on the ballots.
Despite very strict rulings by the Supreme Court on Section 8-13-1356(B) with respect to certification of non-incumbent candidates, by our tally 10 challengers for S.C. House seats remain in violation of those rulings but are certified for inclusion on the ballot. (See link below)
This would be egregious by itself considering all the questions that have already been raised about the qualifications of candidates for the upcoming June primaries. However, it is not the only question that remains unanswered about candidates for those elections.
What was never decided by the Supreme Court is the status of incumbent officeholders who did not file a Statement of Economic Interests by April 15, 2012 as required by state law.
State law mandates an SEI must be filed by all public officials by April 15th of each year for information on the preceding calendar year. The S.C. Ethics Commission gives a five day grace period for public officials to file the form before late fines are imposed. It is important to mention that the term public official includes many who are not elected officials but are required to file the form each year.
However, state law does not give a grace period for filing the form. Therefore, any incumbent who did not file their SEI by April 15, 2012 did not have a current form on file as required by Section 8-13-1356(A) of the S.C. Code of Laws. This section establishes those incumbents who are exempt from filing an SEI at the same time as their Statement of Intention of Candidacy when filing for election.
By not having a current form on file by that date, those incumbents (25 of 124 House members alone – see link below) do not appear to be eligible to be placed on the ballot for the upcoming primary and general elections. If they continue to be allowed on the ballot and win the election, it would seem they are ripe for being declared ineligible in an election challenge.
The Supreme Court gave a strict reading of Section 8-13-1356(B) in its May 2, 2012 decision and its May 3, 2012 reiteration of that ruling, which eliminated approximately 187 challenger candidates statewide. Is it not logical to expect the Supreme Court to give an equally strict ruling on Section 8-13-1356(A) if the question comes before it in an election challenge?
Below is a link to a document that was compiled from information on the S.C. Election Commission and S.C. Ethics Commission websites. It lists 183 currently certified candidates for the upcoming primary elections for S.C. House Seats. Incumbents are listed in bold. The SEI information lists the type of form filed, not the status of the candidate.
As you will note, no record on the filing of an SEI by two candidates (one incumbent and one challenger) can be found. A total of 10 challengers did not file their SEI by March 30, 2012 (the close of filing) and 25 House incumbents did not file their SEI by the required April 15, 2012 date.